Twitter is considering getting rid of the recognisable @-reply and hashtags from the service, radically changing the appearance of users’ feeds.
At a media conference in Denver, Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s head of news, said the @-reply – a way of mentioning other users in messages – and the #hashtag, which denotes topics or search terms, was “arcane” and indicated that Twitter was working on a way to hide them while retaining functionality.
“We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background,” said Schiller.
The statement reiterated a similar comment by Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, in a recent earnings call. Costolo said that “by bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background” it would reduce the learning curve for new users.
He said that the company had already taken “initial steps” towards minimising the visibility of the “scaffolding” and that initial signs were positive.
It is unknown quite what form these modifications could take, although public test versions of Twitter’s Android app has shown that the @ reply portion of the Tweet simply disappears while the functionality stays exactly the same. The app is used as a test bed for Twitter’s experiments allowing real-world feedback from a small group of users.
Facebook uses a similar system, where the @-symbol is used to initiate a username search for mentioning other users in posts. Facebook produces a drop-down search list of connections but removes the @ symbol once a username has been selected, simply showing the name of the person mentioned in the message in bold.
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